HL Deb 09 June 1854 vol 133 cc1305-21

in moving for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the administration of the funds of the charities connected with the Military Order of St. George and the Garter, and more especially with the Royal grant of King Edward III., commonly called the "Old Dotation," and that of Queen Elizabeth, commonly called the "New Dotation," said, that the issue which had to be tried was, how much of those funds belonged of right to the Dean and Canons of Windsor, and for how much of the funds the Dean and Canons were trustees for the Military Knights of Windsor. He brought the question forward upon four distinct grounds. He asked for an inquiry, in the first place, on behalf of the prerogative of the Crown, which he considered had been violated by a diversion of the funds of the Sovereign of the Order of the Garter from their legitimate objects; and, in the second place, on behalf of the taxpayers of England, who had been assessed for a series of years for the expenses of the buildings connected with this charity, while there had been ample funds belonging to the charity itself and especially intended for that purpose. He asked for it, thirdly, on behalf of the British Army, because he believed that, after the full satisfaction of all demands, a fund would be placed at the disposal of the Crown, as he hoped, sufficiently large to restore the twenty-six knights, whose appointments had not been filled up, but who had been appointed under the Statute of Edward III. He moved, lastly, on behalf of the present Military Knights of Windsor, a body of gentlemen who had performed the greatest and most important services to this country, but which he would not now detain their Lordships by alluding to. He was compelled to call the attention of their Lordships to a period of five centuries ago, when an event took place which had been made the subject of one of the frescoes which decorated the chamber in which they were sitting, namely, the investiture of the first Knight of the Garter. He had no observation to offer with respect to the charming romantic legend concerning the Order, nor with the quaint badge, and the equally quaint device which decorated the knee of the Black Prince. It sufficed him (the Earl of Albemarle) to say that the Royal father of that Prince, three years after the battle of Cressy, instituted the Order of the Garter, to which two descriptions of knights were to belong, the one being the Knights Companions of the Order, and the other the Poor, or, as they are now called, the Military Knights of Windsor. The object of the institution of the Order was twofold. In the first place it was the creation of "Knights Companions, to afford encouragement and reward to persons descended from a series of ancestry of noble blood." In the second place, to establish "a perpetual charity for the subsistence of veteran knights who had been reduced to poverty in the wars." Edward III. assigned lands for that purpose, and grants had also been made for its support, not only by the Crown, but by some of the most illustrious members of the Order. In the letters patent of Edward III. the institution was said to have been founded for— Fifteen other canons and twenty-four poor knights, impotent of themselves, or inclining to poverty, to be perpetually maintained of the goods or possessions of the said chapel, perpetually serving Christ under the command of the said custos or warden, and their cause to be received, as well as the canons and knights as other ministers of the said chapel, as was promised; and that his said Majesty thereby decreed, ordained, and by his Royal authority, as much as in him lay, established for ever. It was necessary to observe here that the canons and the knights were placed upon an equality, and their pay, their privileges, and their perquisites were intended to be as nearly equal as possible; their dress was the same, the duties were the same, the same attendance in the chapel was required from them, and the oaths administered to them was not the one administered to the inferior officers, minor canons, and other persons of a lower description. Such appeared to have been the intentions of the Royal founder; but a very short time afterwards those intentions seem to have been frustrated, and a war to have been, in consequence, carried on, even longer than the war with which we were now threatened. For instance, there were a certain number of perquisites especially belonging to the Poor Knights and others, which they shared with the dean and chapter. Among them were such things as the banners, swords, mantlets, and helmets of the deceased Knight Companions, but the dean and canons had sold all this armour, &c., and put the money into their pockets. The interference of some right reverend or most reverend visitors of the charity had been sought, and all the Chancellors of England who had acted as visitors had given their awards in favour of the Poor Knights against the dean and chapter. Another perquisite to which the knights were entitled was a certain number of herrings. The town of Yarmouth was then, as now, celebrated for its herrings, and the corporation was required by Statute to supply the chapel of Windsor with a last of herrings annually in the season of Lent. The dean and canons, however, deprived their military brethren of their share of even this Lenten entertainment, and ate up all the herrings themselves. Complaint was made to Adam, Bishop of St. David's, as Visitor of the Chapel, in the second year of Richard the Second, and in perpetual memory of this act of gluttony on the part of the dean and canons of that day, their successors of the present day are compelled to pay to each knight 6s. 8d. a year in lieu of a herring a day. By the 19th of the College Statutes it was provided that, after certain payments to the alms knights and others, a third part of the overplus or remainder of the revenues of the chapel and college should be set aside every year for extraordinary cases, as fire, murrain, the onera capella incumbentia, &c., or in defence of the rights of the college and chapel, or for increasing their revenues. It was desirable to know what had become of that surplus, and how far it was chargeable for the repairs of the houses of the knights, which formed a part of the chapel, and which repairs are now made at the expense of the taxpayers of England. He (the Earl of Albemarle) wished now to show that, notwithstanding the disincorporating Act of Edward the Fourth, the Knights of Windsor always had an existence. Henry VIII. appointed a man called Peter Narbonne to be one of the alms knights, and requested the dean and canons to give him a maintenance, and they gave him a pension of 20 marks per annum, on condition that he should relinquish it when the King should grant or settle lands on the college and chapel for the provision of the knights, as he had promised them to do, or given them to understand he would do; and thereupon King Henry VIII. wrote and sent to the dean and canons a letter, dated on or about the 18th day of July, 1511, giving them thanks for having conferred the pension on Peter Narbonne, and promising them not to burden them with any more requests of that sort, but to grant and settle lands for the maintenance of the said alms knights. Now, it was evident that at this time Henry VIII. did not contemplate making the dean and canons even the trustees of the lands with which he had promised to endow the Poor Knights. In the year 1546 the dean and canons, by an indenture, surrendered and conveyed the manor and rectory of Ivor, in the county of Bucks, and other hereditaments, to the yearly value of 160l. 2s. 4d., to King Henry VIII. in exchange for other hereditaments, which were to be conveyed to them by His Majesty. On the 9th of June, 1853, the Dean and Canons of Windsor state, in their Report to the Cathedral and Capitular Commissioners, that "By the will of King Henry VIII. certain lands were devised to the Dean and Canons of Windsor." Now, the only paragraph in the will, which is dated 30th of December, 1546, referring to the chapel of Windsor, is as follows— Also, we wool that, with as convenient spede as may be doon ufter our departure out of this world, if it be not doon in our liefe, that the dean and chanons of our free chapele of St. George, within our castle of Windsor, shall have manoures, landes, tenements, and spiritual promotions, to the yearly value of six hundred poundes over all charges made sure to them and their successors for ever, upon these conditions hereafter ensuing. And for the due and full accomplishment and performance of all other things contained with the same, in the forme of an indenture signed with our own hand, which shall be passed by way of covenant for that purpose, between the said deane and canons and our executors, if it pass not between us and the said deane and canons in our liefe, that is to say, the deane and canons, and their successors for ever, shall find two prestos to say masses at the said aulter, to be made where we have before appointed our tomb to be made and stand: and also, after our deceasse kepe yearly four solem fine obites for us within the said college of Windsour, and at every of the same obite to cause a solempne sermon to be made, and also at several of the said obites to give to poor people in almez tenne pounds. And also to give for ever yearly to thirtene poor men, which shall be called 'Poor Knights,' to every of twelfpens every day, and once in the year yearly for ever a long gowne of white cloth, with the garter upon the breast embroidered with a shield and cross of Sainte George within the garter, and a mantle of red cloth; and to such one of the said thirtene poor knights as shall be appointed to be hod and governor of them 3l. 6s. 8d. yearly for ever, over and besides the said twelfpennies by the daye. And also to cause every Sunday in the yore, for ever, a sermon to be made for ever at Windsor aforesaid, as in the said indenture of covenant shall be more fully and particularly expressed, willing, charging, and requiring our son Prince Edwarde, all our executors and counsaillors which shall be named hereafter, all other heirs and successors, which shall be kings of this realme, as they will answer before Almighty God at the dreadful day of judgment, that they and every of them do see that the said indenture and assurance, to be made between us and the said deane and canons, or between them and our executors, and all things therein contained, may be duly put in execution and observed and kept for ever perpetually, according to our last will and testament. King Henry VIII. died on the 23rd of January, 1547, without having altered or revoked his will. This point claimed particular attention, because as lately as June in last year the dean and canons of Windsor had claimed the lands under the devise of Henry VIII. If that claim could be substantiated, the labours of the Committee which he asked their Lordships to appoint would be brought to a speedy termimination. From all the information he had been able to collect, it did not appear that there had been anything like a conveyance in fee to the dean and canons as was pretended. Altogether he was justified in contending that, as far as related to the reign of Henry VIII., the dean and canons had no claim to any of "the New Dotation." On the 24th of February the executors of the late King and the Ministers of the young King Edward VI., together with the Judges and the law officers of the Crown, assembled to carry into effect the wishes of the deceased monarch with respect to the Poor Knights, among other things. In pursuance thereof, on the 2nd of August, 1547, Sir Edward North, then Chancellor of the Court of Augmentation of the King's revenues, issued instructions for preparing a conveyance, in pursuance of the will of Henry VIII., and, after stating the rental of certain hereditaments, mentioned at 812l. 12s. 9d., proceeded to declare that from that sum was to be deducted 160l. 2s. 4d. for the manor of Ivor, and 600l. for the gift in the will of Henry VIII. It was evident, therefore, that the executors of King Henry VIII. entertained no doubt as to the construction which ought to be put upon his will. The Poor Knights had always placed much reliance on an important deed—namely, an indenture of King Edward VI.; but the deed could not be found, and many persons supposed that if it existed at all it was unfavourable to the case of the knights. In 1845, however, owing to the exertions of Mr. Philip Hayward, the indefatigable agent of the Poor Knights, the indenture was discovered among a mass of mouldy parchments in the riding-house of Carlton Palace. The deed bore date the 4th of August, 1547, and in it reference was made, in the sense already stated, to the two sums of 600l. and 160l. 2s. 4d. Three months afterwards a letter patent of Edward VI., dated October 7, 1547, put the dean and canons in possession of rents producing at that period 600l., in trust, for the uses assigned by King Henry VIII. That two dotations of the Poor Knights were in existence at that period was clear from the fact stated by Ashmole—that two treasurers, one of the old and the other of the new dotation, the Senescallus veteris and the Senescallus novœ donationis, were appointed. That, these funds were misapplied, was equally clear from the fact that for some years after the dean and canons had received these lands in trust there was a Committee of inquiry into the state of the Royal College of the Chapel of St. George. He would refer their Lordships to some extracts from the Register Book of the Council of King Edward VI.— 1551, June 22.—Privy Council held at Greenwich, before King Edward VI. Present thereat—the Protector, the Duke of Somerset, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Treasurer, the Lord Privy Seal, Lord of Shrewsbury, Lord Admiral, Lord Chamberlain, Lord Cobham, Mr. Treasurer, Mr. Comptroller, Mr. Vice Chamberlain, Mr. Secretary Cecil; when it was considered and ordered that 'a letter of Appearance to the Dean of Windsor (inter alia) to bring with him also a note of so much money of the Poor Knights as he has in his custody.' That appeared to be something like a trust, anyhow. Then, in 1552, there was the following extract— 1552, August 7.—Privy Council held at Waltham, before King Edward VI. Present thereat—the Lord Treasurer, the Lord Privy Seal, the Duke of Suffolk, the Lord Chamberlain, Mr. Treasurer, Mr. Secretary Cecil, the Lord Great Chamberlain, and the Vice Chamberlain; when the subject of complaint to the Crown in the letter of the 1st of August, then instant, from Sir Philip Hoby to the Lord Treasurer was taken into the consideration of the Council, and it was thereupon ordered that 'a letter to the Commissioners (the Earl of Warwick, Sir Philip Hoby, and others) appointed for the inquiry at Windsor, to examine the prebendaries (meaning the dean and canons) there—particularly according to the instructions given them, and to get as much as they can of that hath been embezzled, or the value thereof, and to certify hither of their proceedings in their behalf.' Here was evidence of the Crown exercising supreme authority by virtue of its Royal prerogative as Sovereign of the Order of the Garter, and that authority was exercised through the Privy Council. It also afforded evidence that the dean and canons were trustees, and were not possessed of the property in fee. From the year 1553 down to 1558, during the reign of Queen Mary, the whole of the rents and profits were paid over to the Lord High Treasurer, the Marquess of Winchester, and such sums were expended in building some of the thirteen houses in Windsor Castle, and in fitting up and repairing others for the Poor Knights, and which houses the thirteen Poor Knights at present occupied. It appeared, therefore, very evident that such property was held by the dean and canons subject to the trust of keeping the houses in repair, and that such outlay was not to be looked upon in the light of a charity. At all events, that was the question which he wished to make the subject of inquiry before a Select Committee. From the accession of Edward VI. to the death of Queen Mary certain conditions of the will of Henry VIII. had been complied with. It was still requisite to make a declaration as to the uses to which the property in question should be applied, and accordingly, by an indenture dated the 30th of August, 1559, the first year of Queen Elizabeth, made between that sovereign and the dean and canons, it was declared that the property mentioned in the schedule annexed was given and assured unto the dean and canons and their successors "to and for the intent and purpose that the revenues and profits of the same should for ever be employed and bestowed for the maintenance of thirteen Poor Knights within the Castle of Windsor." Those words were so clear that it was quite evident what the intentions of Queen Elizabeth were. If there was any doubt as to her meaning, she stated in her letters patent of the same date that for the advancement of the noble Order of the Garter, and especially upon the knowledge given her of the late mind and will of her most dear father of noble memory to make a special foundation and continuance of thirteen poor men decayed in the wars and such like service of the realm, to be called Thirteen Knights of Windsor, to be kept there in succession, did, by those letters patent, not only set forth and express the foundation of the thirteen Poor Knights, but declared how and in what manner the revenues of the lands given to the dean and canons by her father Henry VIII., should be bestowed and employed for the maintenance of those thirteen Knights. The property which was thus appropriated for the benefit of these Poor Knights produced, at that period, about 820l. a year; it now yielded no less than 14,750l. The sums stated in the patent as "The Queen's Majesty's Ordinance for the continual charges," consisted of twenty-nine items, amounting, in the whole, to 429l. 13s. 2d.;so that the difference, after deducting those charges, was, according to the indenture and the patent of the 30th of August, 1559, to be bestowed and employed for the maintenance of these Poor Knights. It appeared that the rents of the said lands of the new dotation exclusively of the rectories and prebends, were for several years, from 1558 to 1564, or later, applied according to such indenture and letters patent. He then came to King James I., who, on the 5th of October, 1603, confirmed the rights of, and granted an additional shilling a day to, the Poor Knights. Charles in 1623, also confirmed the ordinance of Queen Elizabeth. By an Act of what was commonly called the Long Parliament, passed in 1649, for abolishing deans, deans and chapters, canons, prebends, and other offices and titles of or belonging to cathedral or collegiate churches, and settling their property in certain trustees, the said deans and canons of Windsor were purported to be abolished, and the leases granted by them since the 1st of December, 1641, were made void; but it was provided that all rents and sums of money which before that date had been, or ought to have been paid towards any charitable use should be continued to be paid as they were before the 1st of December, 1641. But at the restoration of King Charles II. the dean and canons returned to their old place as trustees. Well, it appeared that, from the time of Charles II. to the reign of George II., the persons appointed to the places of the Poor Knights were generally of a lower grade or rank than were the persons who before or since that time had been appointed to such places, and, as well by reason of their poverty as of ignorance of their rights, were prevented from asserting, and they did not assert, their claim, to a share of the increased rents of the lands of the new dotation. But a great movement took place in the reign of George II. in reference to the position of these Poor Knights. Among those who interested themselves on their behalf was his (the Earl of Albemarle's) great-grandfather, who presented a petition on the subject in the year 1734, a counterpart of that which he himself had laid upon the table of the House a few days before. The case was referred to the law officers of the Crown, and the dean and canons were summoned to appear before them. The existence of the indenture of Queen Elizabeth was then denied, and as there were then no means of proving its existence, the matter went no further. The opinion of counsel was taken on one point, to which he wished to call the attention of the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack. On a former occasion he asked his noble and learned Friend whether the Court of Chancery had any jurisdiction over the question relating to the claims of the Poor Knights of Windsor, and his noble and learned Friend declined giving any opinion. With great submission, he thought his noble and learned Friend was wise in so declining, because it was a question by no means clear, and one upon which another Member of Her Majesty's Government had expressed an opinion contrary to that which it might be presumed was the opinion of his noble and learned Friend. He was aware that it was very improper to allude to what took place in the other House of Parliament, but he thought he might do it as a matter of history. When an hon. Member asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department a question concerning the claims of the Military Knights of Windsor, Lord Palmerston said that "the natural course of bringing to a decision a question of the kind which was pending between the Military Knights and the dean and canons of Windsor would be a suit in Chancery; and he hoped he might be able to propose to the parties a method of bringing the question to an issue by a reference, which might save them from the expense and trouble of a Chancery suit, and he should endeavour to propose some such arrangement." Now, if he (the Earl of Albemarle) did not know his noble Friend to be one of the best-hearted men in all Christendom, he should say that that reply looked very like a threat of a suit in Chancery if the present expedient should not succeed. He would now refer to cases in support of his view of the case. The first authority he should bring forward was the opinion of William Fortescue, afterwards Sir William Fortescue, Master of the Rolls. In, or shortly before the year 1733, the Poor Knights of Windsor submitted a statement of their case to that gentleman, who gave his written opinion to this effect— I conceive, if this was a case wherein the Crown was not concerned, that a court of equity would decree the Poor Knights to have an equal share in proportion with the other of the said charities; but, in the present case, it seems to me that the King may himself direct in what manner, and to which of the said charities the said improvements shall be applied, or may name and appoint any person or persons of the Order of the Garter so to do. Under this advice the Poor Knights petitioned George II., praying for relief. The King handed the petition to Lord Harrington, the Secretary of State, who referred it to the law officers of the Crown, who summoned the dean and canons before them, and they attended and objected to the King's prerogative in the case. Further proceedings were afterwards had before Sir Dudley Ryder, Attorney General, who made a report to the King, in which, after setting forth all the facts that had been produced before him, he said, he was humbly of opinion that the Poor Knights had not made out a title to any share of the improvements of the property. This opinion evidently rested upon the alleged non-existence of the indenture of the 4th of August, 1547. But since the month of May, 1845, Mr. Philip Hayward had discovered that very indenture. In support of the argument that the Court of Chancery had no jurisdiction in this case, he would advert for a moment to what had been done in regard to the appointment of the Chancellor of the Order of the Garter. That office was created by King Edward 1V., who appointed Richard Beauchamp, the then Bishop of Salisbury, to the office. The chapel of St. George, Windsor, being then within the diocese of Salisbury, Edward IV. declared that the Bishops of Salisbury should be also Chancellors of the Order of the Garter. But Edward VI. set aside, by his sovereign will, that declaration, and for about 120 years laymen filled the office of Chancellor. He did not see the Prime Minister in his place, but he might observe that in the reign of Edward VI. the First Minister of the Crown was made Chancellor of the Order. One Bishop of Salisbury, it was true, succeeded in the next reign, because he happened to be the son of an attorney, and because he knew there was no jurisdiction in the Court of Chancery over the appointment. But, should he (the Earl of Albemarle) be driven from the argument he was then urging, he had others which he could bring forward, for he felt it his duty to do all that was in his power to protect his brother officers—the Poor Knights of Windsor—and save them from the painful alternative of being thrown into that "Slough of Despond," the Court of Chancery. Why, if that were to happen, they would spend their 1s. a day, and would be involved in a suit as interminable as the celebrated cause of "Jarndyce v. Jarndyce." He trusted, however, he had succeeded in showing to their Lordships that the dean and canons of Windsor were merely trustees of the property held by them, and that the Military Knights of Windsor were the cestuique trusts of that property. The noble Earl then referred to a document which had recently been discovered in the Ashmolean Museum, showing that payments had been made by the dean and canons of Windsor, under the will of Henry and also under the indentures of Edward VI. and of Queen Elizabeth, in their character of trustees only. He would only refer to one more fact in proof of the point he was endeavouring to establish. It appeared from the journals of their Lordships' House, that in 1597 a Bill was introduced to enable Arthur Hatch to hold a portion of the new dotation, certain lands belonging to the rectory and parsonage of South Moulton. On that occasion counsel were expressly directed to inquire and report whether the Bill contained anything to prejudice the Poor Knights of Windsor. They reported that it did not; and the Act which was subsequently passed—39 & 40 Eliz.—distinctly recited the fact that "His late Majesty King Edward VI. did, by letters patent under the Great Seal, grant this parsonage for the use of the Poor Knights of Windsor." He apologised for having detained their Lordships so long, but still they must remember that the time he thus occupied in urging the claims of these Poor Knights was not so long as the Chancery suit with which they were threatened would occupy. If ever those Poor Knights were frightened in their lives, it must have been when they read the speech of the noble Lord the Secretary for the Home Department. He would not trouble their Lordships with quoting any more cases. He trusted he had said enough, at least to induce their Lordships to grant him a Select Committee. He must say that since his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) had forced upon an unwilling Parliament and an unwilling Government the Act relating to the abuses of charitable trusts, there had been a disposition shown on the part of the Legislature and of the Executive to grant an inquiry wherever a primâ facie case could be produced. But, somehow or other, it had happened that hitherto something had occurred to prevent these Poor Knights from having their case fully in- quired into by Parliament. In 1835, a Commission of Inquiry was instituted, but on that occasion, although the inquiry extended from the dean down to the sexton, yet the dean and canons actually ignored the existence of the Military Knights, a body with whom they had now been associated for 500 years—the existence of men, many of whom had obtained medals for gallant services in the field, unless, indeed, it was to be understood that those Knights were specified under the title of "servants" by the dean and canons. The noble Earl concluded by moving for the appointment of a Select Committee.


conceived that the proposition made to their Lordships by the noble Earl was one which, if sanctioned, would make that House a universal court of inquiry in all cases where persons fancied they suffered a legal grievance and ought to be encouraged in pursuing their legal remedy. He felt sympathy for the veterans whose case had found so able an advocate as the noble Earl; but it was quite out of their Lordships' power to do anything in their behalf. But the case stated to the House was purely a question of legal right. The case laid before them by the noble Earl was, that for several centuries too great a portion of the revenues of the charity had been appropriated to the dean and chapter, and far too small a portion to the Poor Knights. This was entirely a question of legal right for a court of law to decide. Supposing the Committee granted, and that their Lordships came to the conclusion that, according to the true construction of these charters and deeds, the rights of the parties whose case the noble Earl advocated had for two centuries and a half been misunderstood, what could their Lordships do but leave the parties where they were before, letting them assert their own rights? The noble Earl had spoken with some horror of sending the Poor Knights to the Court of Chancery. Now, it might be a misfortune to be compelled to resort to the Court of Chancery at all, but he (the Lord Chancellor) believed that in respect to a question of this sort, where it was only to be established, aye or no, whether a right existed, the Court of Chancery proceeded with as great rapidity as any tribunal could safely act. But whether that were so or not, the Court of Chancery was nevertheless the proper tribunal to decide the case which the noble Earl had now brought before their Lordships. He could not help thinking that there were almost insuperable objections to the appointment of a Committee, and he asked their Lordships whether they were likely to be able to comprehend the merits of a complicated case, depending upon the consideration of ancient deeds of the time of Henry VIII., Edward VI., and Elizabeth; and whether they could come to a conclusion on this claim of rights? He apprehended that the proposed inquiry fell not within the legitimate duties of that House; and he saw insuperable difficulties in the way of granting the Committee—not the least being the impossibility of drawing a line between this and other cases, and of preventing, if the present Motion were sanctioned, the House from being made a general court of inquiry in favour of all persons believing themselves to suffer under a legal wrong. The noble Earl had imagined that the individuals whose cause he advocated would experience great difficulty in prosecuting their claim before a court of law; but it should be borne in mind that any parties not in a condition to bear law expenses might have their case, under certain circumstances, conducted without expense. There was likewise another course of proceeding which the noble Earl's clients might adopt; they might present a memorial to the Attorney General; and, if that functionary thought the case a fitting one for investigation, he could, ex officio, institute proceedings. When this matter was mentioned to him some three or four weeks ago, he yielded to the suggestion which some one then made, that it might be referred to the new Board of Charity Commission; but the learned persons composing that Board made an objection which was perfectly conclusive — namely, that they had no jurisdiction in the question, for the Charity Act excepted from the jurisdiction of that Board all collegiate and cathedral churches; and these Poor Knights, it seemed, were integral parts of the collegiate church of St. George, Windsor—a circumstance of which he was not at the time aware. Under these circumstances, all that he could suggest was, either that these parties should of their own authority institute legal proceedings, or present a memorial to the Attorney General, satisfying him that it was a case in which he ought to interfere. He (the Lord Chancellor) doubted whether that officer would come to such a decision, because, where, whether rightly or wrongly, a state of things had gone on for about two centuries, that might not be deemed a very reasonable case for any interference on the part of the Attorney General. Still, it was open for these parties to pursue that course, and, if they did not take it, they must then do as other persons did who believed themselves to be deprived of their rights—they must have recourse to the ordinary tribunals of the land. With respect to the proposed Committee, he conceived that the granting of it would be dangerous in itself, and might be a precedent for still more dangerous applications hereafter.


said, that having been alluded to, he would trespass for a few moments on their Lordships' attention. He had the greatest possible respect for the parties whose case had been brought before the House; but he must decline giving any opinion in that House on the case, even if his recollection enabled him to do so. But he remembered nothing at all of the merits of the case, which had been so fully pleaded by the noble Earl, from whose able advocacy it might be inferred, that if the noble Earl had devoted himself to the practice of the Court of Chancery he would by this time have been sitting on the woolsack. That House was not the tribunal to which, in the first instance, the parties ought to come, and he apprehended that the proper tribunal to take cognisance of such a case was the Court of Chancery. Let the clients of the noble Earl go into the Court of Chancery, and, with his assistance, their case would be most ably pleaded, and full justice would be done. He (Lord Campbell) would likewise repeat what had fallen from the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack, that the Attorney General, whatever might be his political opinions, would most eagerly and zealously attend to such a case if he thought it a fit one for interference.


said that, having been alluded to by the noble Earl, in consequence of having formerly taken a part in the great question relating to the abuses of charitable trusts, he wished to say that he could not approve of the present proposal for the appointment of a Committee. What such a Committee would have to inquire into would be whether the case of the Poor Knights or that of the dean and canons was the better in point of law. That was an entirely legal question; and, if argued before the proper tribunal, the Court of Chancery, it might afterwards come before their Lordships in their judi- cial capacity as a Court of Appeal. This showed the extreme inconvenience of the proposed course. At the same time, he could not help thinking that it was somewhat hard on these parties that they should, in consequence of being excluded, by an exception in the Charitable Trusts Act, from the cognisance of the Board appointed under that Act, be driven to another and more expensive and more tedious and anxious course of proceeding—namely, an application to the Court of Chancery. Considering, then, that these parties had a case as against the chapter and against the Government, in so far as the Government, listening to the recommendation of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, had taken possession of part of the canonries, to the exclusion of the rights of these Poor Knights, and considering the hardship they suffered in being excluded from the easy, summary, and cheap remedy afforded by the Charitable Trusts Board, he could not help expressing his earnest hope that the law officers of the Crown would lend a favourable ear to the representations of these gallant and meritorious persons; and he should hope that the costs of the proceedings, regard being had to the hardship of the case, would be borne not by the Poor Knights, but by the Government.


conceived that the speech of the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack constituted a powerful argument in favour of the Motion, because the noble and learned Lord had pointed out that, by a singular exception in the Charitable Trusts Act, whatever injustice might be done by collegiate establishments, there was no remedy under that Act. He, therefore, thought it was a case for the interference of Parliament. True it was that the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack had said that the parties might go to the Court of Chancery; but surely it must be obvious that it would be rather hard for these Poor Knights to enter into litigation with the Dean and Chapter of St. George's, Windsor — and what had passed in the course of the present discussion led him to think that the dean and chapter would be supported by the Government. It had been said that the Attorney General would act ex officio, but still the Attorney General must be moved. One of the duties of the Government was to inquire into cases like the present, where the parties might have a difficulty in proceeding at law. He should be glad to hear that the Government would bear the costs of the suit, and then, indeed, much of the ground for the appointment of the Committee would be removed; but as he perceived no intention on the part of the Government to do that, he thought it expedient for Parliament to interfere, and he looked upon that House as being a more fitting branch of the Legislature for such interference than the other House. So far as he understood the case, it appeared to him that, unless there was some interference on the part of Parliament, it would be quite in vain for these parties to look for any remedy for the grievances of which they complained. It had been said that the House of Lords was not the place to pronounce, in the first instance, on a legal question, but still the House of Lords might be a very good body to inquire whether there was not a case proper to be brought before the legal tribunals.


in reply, said that, as the noble and learned Lords who had spoken considered the case a very hard one, he would not divide the House on the Motion, if he received any intimation from them that they would support him in some future Motion for an Address to the Crown to instruct the Attorney General to institute proceedings on behalf of the parties whose case he had brought before the House.

Motion, by leave of the House, withdrawn.

House adjourned to Monday next.